|MONTHLY FISHING SYNOPSIS - by Al Hubbard
During January and February, saltwater anglers will find red snapper and grouper off the inshore reefs in less than 100 feet of water. Live shrimp and light tackle in the 15 pound class will afford some excellent fishing.
Also during January, speckled trout and redfish will be in the rivers and canals looking for warmer water. Try live bait or sinking Mir-O-Lures.
In March, Gulf temperatures start approaching the 65 degree mark. Ladyfish, bluefish, and bonito will start showing up. Later in the month, Spanish mackerel will arrive.
If the Gulf temperature warms fast, the cobia may show up as early as St. Patrick's Day, but they need 70 degree water. Late March is when the smart bettors put their money on the first cobia being caught.
King mackerel quickly follow the cobia to the coast. April is when the trolling actively starts for the kings. During May and June is when the hottest king mackerel fishing starts.
May is the month that the speckled trout have moved out of the canals and back out onto the grass flats in the bays. A topwater plug worked over grass flats in 4 feet of water will result in explosive strikes.
If you are a billfish angler, July is your important month. The DeSoto Canyon and other structures off the Loop Current are your targets. Marlin, sails and big dolphin are tearing up weedlines.
Red snapper and grouper have moved to the deeper offshore structures. They are hanging around the reefs in 90 to 150 feet of water.
August will find the second run of king mackerel. Normally, they are a tad smaller than their 20-pound average Spring run cousins, but there will be twice as many.
September will find flounder migrating from the estuaries back in the bay to the 60 foot water in the Gulf to spawn. Early in the migration, a bull minnow or grub fished along a sand hole in the bay will result in an excellent meal. Later in the month, a bull minnow dropped down to the shallow inshore reefs will get your pole bent.
September will also see the start of a migration of speckled trout back into the rivers and residential canals around St. Andrews Bay. This is the time of year that dedicated speckled trout fishermen hunt a wall hanger. Live bait and fishing quietly is the answer.
September and October are when the red snapper and grouper follow the cooler water and move back to the shallower inshore reefs. Bass fishing tackle and live shrimp in 60 feet of water will put fish in the freezer.
During November and December, most of the fishermen are in the woods deer hunting. Those inshore reefs holding grouper, snapper, and flounder will not be crowded. On windy days, try the mouths of rivers or residential canals for the ax-handle speckled trout.
Not even discussed are amberjack, blacktip shark, black drum, sheepshead, triggerfish, or freshwater species. These fish move according to the seasons. The redfish may be around a boat dock in July and then be slamming crabs on top in the pass in August. The speckled trout may be busting topwater plugs in May over the grass flats and sucking down finger mullet in the canals in December. Those red snapper that were in 200 feet of water in July will be hanging around stuctures in 60 feet of water in December. But, the important thing to remember is that somewhere in easy boating range of Panama City, they will be biting!